Anzac Day: Remembering the futility of wars for empire!

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Anzac Day is important to remember because of the utter futility of being part of an imperialist military alliance.

New Zealand casualties in that war, killed or wounded, were 58%. That is equal to one-quarter of the adult male population. Our death rate of those who served at 16.6% was higher than that suffered by Germany!

“The total number of New Zealand troops and nurses to serve overseas in 1914–18, excluding those in British and other Dominion forces, was 100,444, from a population of just over a million. Forty-two percent of men of military age served in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, fighting in the Gallipoli Campaign and on the Western Front. 16,697 New Zealanders were killed and 41,317 were wounded during the war – a 58 percent casualty rate.

Although numbers are difficult to estimate accurately the German losses are thought to be around 13% of those who served. (see War Losses Germany)

This was because of the utter contempt that the British empire’s officer corps (drawn largely from the more stupid sons of the aristocracy) had for their own working class and peasant troops.

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Captured officers from the other side were treated in a far superior manner than those of their own troops.

This war was strongly opposed by the fledgeling Labour Party in New Zealand and some of its leaders were expelled from parliament and went to prison for their stand.

The British empire was a horrific colonial enslaver of hundreds of millions of human beings. Millions died as a direct consequence of their rule. (See “Five of the Worst Atrocities carried out by the British Empire“)

There is nothing in that history that needs to be celebrated.

What we should be celebrating is the heroic stand of the labour movement at that time. (See Voices Against War)

11 COMMENTS

  1. … And remembering the futility of wars for others in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan – but at least the men of the industrial military complex do get stinking richer – a counterbalance to subsistence peasants being shot in hovels by moonlight by America’s buddies in the SIS – and every now and then, somebody speaks for our damaged New Zealand vets, and for their damaged families, and asks , “ What about us, Minister, and what about them ?”

    • I think of three friend who went with the NZ Army to the American war on Vietnam.
      They all came back alive but deeply shocked. All three has PTSD, two needed psychiatric help which their families had to pay for while were not able to work after failing to hold a job down. One became alcohol dependent and the other got onto weed. Both died early in their early 60s and never got to get the pension.
      The third one killed himself after some years of mental turmoil, hallucination often in the day and nightmares when he was trying to sleep.
      The USA troops were in Vietnam for the UN to run countrywide elections not declare was on Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.
      Why did NZ join them.
      On ANZAC I remember my friends as whole happy young men before they were taken into that hell hole.

      • Yes John. I was stunned going to the Uk late ‘60’s at info more readily available there, in the public arena, re Vietnam, Palestine, Apartheid Sth Africa. Sth African produce was stickered and boycotted in supermarkets. My knowledge of Vietnam was deficient. Worked with white (Dutch ) Sth Africans who said they never supported apartheid, but they all seem to say that.

        In 1974 I first conversed with an oldish Kiwi WW2 vet, who said that the war experience permanently wrecked many of their lives, and, importantly, their marriages. I gather it left him impotent, and he never had more than the one daughter conceived prior to leaving behind his life here at the innocent bottom of the world.

        When Hager and Stephenson exposed our shameful conduct up in the beautiful Hindu Kush, I was given to understand that the only support for returning Kiwis was from voluntary support groups set up to support each other. A tradie who talked it, said that
        “everybody” knows an ex DZDF’er sworn to secrecy about what occurred there.

        Anzac I reread from my WW1 poets, and read contemporary media reports of our dwindling number of world war returnee veterans still suffering, and still needing help, and I think – “ Still the rain, dark as the world of man, black as our loss” , and I wonder if the young pollies carousing in the strip clubs with their girlfriends, will ever grow into reality, or know or even care, how multi- dimensional it all is, and I doubt it.

        But, as you intimate, it is the shadows which haunt the minds of the waking wounded,
        which are a gross and evil injustice they do not deserve to be burdened with.

  2. ‘This war was strongly opposed by the fledgling Labour Party in New Zealand and some of its leaders were expelled from parliament and went to prison for their stand.’
    And in World War II those members of the Labour Party imprisoned the Reverend Ormond Burton and other Conscientious objectors in shocking conditions.
    Bob Semple went to jail in 1917 for opposing conscription.
    In 1940 he supervised the conscription lottery.
    What was the difference between World War one and World War two?
    Well in World War One we were fighting expanding German Militarism.
    In World War two we were fighting Nazis and facists( a cynic might think that the old men in the Wartime Labour Cabinet were now in no danger of being called up themselves so they did not mind imposing conscription on young men).
    It did not stop there.
    Helen Clark protested against New Zealand participation in the Vietnam War.
    Helen Clark sent the NZ SAS to Afghanistan( in secret at first).
    History shows politicians will always find justifications for war when they can get someone else to fight them.

  3. This was because of the utter contempt that the British empire’s officer corps (drawn largely from the more stupid sons of the aristocracy) had for their own working class and peasant troops.

    This is one of the most wrong and offensive statements I’ve seen from your foul Anglophobic mind. Perhaps you should read John Lewis-Stempel’s excellent ‘Six Weeks – The Short and Gallant Life of the British Officer in the First World War’. Also, the relatively few ‘aristocratic’ officers suffered an equally high death rate and should be remembered just as such. Shame on you.

    • Agreed, the cost of war was huge for all classes. Officers were expected to lead from the front, and so died in huge numbers, the pilots of the airforce were at times expected to last only 12 days in air to air combat. Some 64 british generals died during the war. And lastly for every aristocratic young officer killed (most of them were used up by the early years of the war) there were two grieving parents, indeed many war leaders lost sons and family members to shell and bullet. The reluctance to engage in and prepare for another war led to first the appeasement then later inadequate response to both the german and japanese blitzkriegs.

  4. (Chorus) One, Two, Three- What are we fighting for…….
    Don’t ask me I don’t give give a damn, next stop is Viet Nam (or inset your preferred War location??)…..
    And it’s Five, Six, Seven- Open up the Pearly gates….
    Ain’t no time too wonder why….. whoppee, we’re all gonna die?

    Come on Generals lets move fast
    Your big chance has come at last
    Now you can go out & get those Reds
    Good Commie is the one that’s dead and you know that peace can only be won when we’re blown them all to kingdom come….

    (Chorus) What are we fighting for…..

    Come on Wall Street don’t be slow
    Why man this War is a go go go
    There’s plenty good money to be made by
    Supplying the Army with the tools of its Trade
    Let’s hope & pray if they drop the Bomb
    That they drop it on the Vietcong (or Russia or China or Iran or Nth Korea -or insert your preferred Villains?)
    (Sing Chorus)

    Country Joe & the Fish’s Woodstock Anti War anthem rings true today, just as it did in the 1960’s? Wars a Racket that’s foisted on others by big money players with Imperial ambitions of World Domination!

  5. I read a biography of Winston Churchill titled ‘The Last Lion’. In that book is a quote by Churchill about the British Empire’s ambition to colonise Turkey.

    Churchill argued for the British Empire’s attempted conquest of Turkey saying, “We rule over millions of Muslims in India, we can rule over the Muslims of Turkey”.

    The British Empire was brutal, avaricious and racist, Winston Churchill as an avid imperialist’ epitomised this British world view, Churchill saw Turkey as a another colonial conquest for the Empire.

    The First World War was a bloodbath between rival European Empires for world domination and control, there were no good sides, The global conflict between British and German imperialism was used as an excuse by Britain to attack Turkey.

    Turkey originally stayed out of the conflict and tried to appease both sides. But Turkey itself was no innocent, being a junior imperial power in its own right. The Turkish Ottoman Empire had been weakened by years of liberation struggles in its Middle Eastern territories.
    The British Empire encouraged and even helped these independence struggles of the Arab peoples to undermine and weaken Turkey. After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire Britain and their Western allies betrayed the Arab liberation movements by carving out Middle Eastern colonies for themselves.

    The tragic results of this betrayal we still see today.

    • Turkey was loosely allied to Britain and had Britain building two dreadnought battleships for them;
      Britain wanted Turkey as a foe so they could eventual occupy the Ottoman Empire which included much of the Middle East and crucially for the Zionists the Area known as Palestine.
      So that was easily transformed by Britain confiscating the two Turkish warships that had been paid for by the Turkish Govt and contributed to by a widespread appeal for donations from the Turkish public.
      A dastardly blow to Turkey and breach of trust creating Turkish public outcry forcing the change of alliance away from the treacherous Britain to the open arms of Germany.
      Russia moved to then invade Turkey for the spoils of getting a ice free winter port but Britain intervened promising they would invade Turkey and encouraged Russia to concentrate on Germany.
      So Britain rustled up Kiwis, Ozzies and young poms to take part in a suicidal ill planed attack that we know as Gallipoli.
      Kiwi blood for imperial gains with oil, taken up directly by BP and others as well as creating the British “protectorate” including Palestine. The rest of that story is now dark history. British US spoils of war that we contributed towards.

  6. Perhaps these words may help you to alleviate your internal angst:

    Hear them whisper,
    voices from the other side
    Hear them calling
    former foes now friends are resting side by side

    They will never leave our hearts or fade away
    live forever
    they were far too young to die in such a way

    how many wasted lives
    how many dreams did fade away
    broken promises
    they won’t be coming home

    Oh mothers wipe your tears
    your sons will rest a million years
    found their peace at last
    as foe turned to friend
    and forgive
    And they knew they’d die

    Gallipoli
    Left their letters in the sand
    Such waste of life
    Gallipoli
    Dreams of freedom turned to dust

    Hell is waiting where the ocean meets the sand
    Cliffs of burden
    where the soldiers rushed into a certain death

    At the shoreline
    Blood of heroes stains the land
    light a candle
    One for each of them who fought and died in vain

    There is no enemy
    There is no victory
    Only boys who lost their lives in the sand
    Young men were sacrificed
    Their names are carved in stone and kept alive
    and forever we will honour the memory of them
    And they knew they would die

    Gallipoli
    Left their letters in the sand
    Such waste of life
    Gallipoli
    Dreams of freedom turned to dust

    Oh mothers wipe your tears
    your sons will rest a million years
    found their peace at last
    as foe turned to friend
    and forgive
    And they knew they would die

    Gallipoli
    Left their letters in the sand
    Such waste of life
    Gallipoli
    Dreams of freedom turned to dust

    Brodén / Sundström

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